I wrote a post a while back about baptism, in which I basically said my thoughts on the subject were limited by the fact that I didn’t understand other people’s views on the matter.
Take, for contrasting example, the issue of predestination. I have my views on the matter. And I feel comfortable with those views because I’ve studied other people’s and felt like I understood them enough to say, “OK, I understand why you believe that, but here’s why I don’t.” It’s a complicated issue with lots of good arguments from the different sides, and I can respect the diversity of beliefs. Even the ones that are obviously wrong.
With baptism, on the other hand, I have a harder time. I, for example, don’t believe in infant baptism. It would be easier for me to say, “OK, here’s why I disagree with people who believe that,” if I understood why they believed that. But I don’t. I don’t feel like I have enough understanding of the arguments to evaluate them.
So my co-worker Johnny was kind enough, after reading my post, to loan me his copy of the book Understanding Four Views on Baptism.
I don’t know that it really changed my thinking, but it sure was fun.
The way the book works is this. It’s written by four experts representing four different belief sets, and is divided into four sections. In each section, one of the four experts explains what his group believes, and why. The other three then get to write why he’s wrong.
The problem with this approach is that you never get an unbiased look at anything, you just get a variety of biases to average out. I came out of the book with the same viewpoints I had going into it. I read the arguments supporting differing views, and still didn’t really understand how people could believe those things. But that may be as much a reflection of me as it was the book. It seemed a lot of the arguments involved adding things to scripture, which raises the question of whether those things were good things to add. Shockingly, the person writing that particular argument thought they were. The other people, shockingly, did not.
The discourse, however, was quite entertaining, in very much a polite “with all respect, I have no respect for this” tone. To be honest, I found it more enjoyable reading from a debate perspective than from a baptism perspective.
The book is part of a series, and I very well may have to go back and look into other volumes in the set to see what it looks like for other topics to get this treatment.
Filed under: God, Reviews Tagged: | Baptism, books, Christianity, Counterpoints: Church Life, debate, John H. Armstrong, postaday2011, Religion and Spirituality, reviews, Understanding Four Views on Baptism, writing